Saturday, June 12, 2021

Farmer's Market, Soap Display, Strawberry Celebration... And Finishing Touches on Chalk Cat.

 The weather was more tolerable today, but still managed to get into the 90's.  After noting a problem last week,  Cheryl and I adjusted the tent set up so the Soaps were on full display in the middle of the tent.   We moved over to the side and allowed people to hang out and smell the soaps without worry of being run over by a stroller.   In all,  We managed to sell about half of what we sold last week.  Which is still better than Muscatine, so I guess I would put this market in the "win" category.   ( Our standards for "winning" are already very low.   But... What are you gonna do? )

I think the display worked out.  Cheryl says she liked letting the shopper's shop and "checking out" on the side when they were ready.   Possibly one of our greatest flaws in the business world in the failure to "sell" things.   By "Selling," I mean:  Actively pushing our product on unsuspecting people as they pass by.  I don't like high pressure salesmen.  So we try to let the soap sell itself.   So far,  it seems to be working out. 

Upon finishing the show,  Cheryl baked up some Shortcake and I hulled the Strawberries.   We added them together and MAGIC HAPPENS!   Strawberry Shortcake is perhaps the BEST way to eat Strawberries! ( in my opinion.) I like strawberry yogurt and ice cream just fine, But I would not dream of wasting these strawberries any other way. ( Chocolate dipped strawberries are fine for the store bought ones....  But not these.) Cheryl even whipped up some fresh topping from the left over heavy cream.   Wonderful taste of heaven on earth. 

After gaining a second wind, I headed to the park to finish the cat I started earlier yesterday.  It did not take long, and by the time I got there, the shade from the tree provided much needed cover from the sun.  The slight breeze and the lack of direct sunlight actually makes the outside pleasant to be in. Too bad the clouds could not keep the sun obscured just a touch more, so the heat would not be so overwhelming. 

Tomorrow is a new day!  And next week is a new week.  If the Summer heat lets up, I'm hoping the farmer's markets will pick up.  Oh!  And next week, Kalona is having "Kalona Days"  some event to lure tourist out to Amish country.  Perhaps we will be able to make up for the lack luster sales this week.  Or at least enjoy the 5k Race that will be starting right in front of our booth.   I can hardly wait.   Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, June 11, 2021

A Great Day For Strawberries.

The Heat continues as Cheryl and I prepare for Tomorrow's Farmer's Market.   Thursday's Market did not go quite as planned, so we are left with a bunch of high end brownies and cookies to dispose of.  I'm thinking that the heat kept most of the people away.   There were also the arrival of the Amish, and they have a loyal following.  So...  Who knows?  Cheryl does not want to continue to lose money on  a market if no one will buy anything.  Perhaps the Farmer's Market has lost the "new" feeling.   It is quite the puzzle. 

So that makes the Kalona Farmer's market that much more intense.   Will we have a repeat of last week?  Will the heat keep people away again?   Are people bored of Farmer's Markets already?   I guess we shall find out.  Or at least gain more data that we will be unable to decipher.  Honestly, I don't know how anyone is successful at Business.   It will continue to be a mystery to me. 

But yesterday was not all bad.    They had a "Chalk The Walk" in the park area yesterday Morning.   It was too early for us to get there while it was going on, however, we did manage to see the results of a hundred kids with lots of chalk at their disposal. I snapped a few pics. 

Not wanting to be left out though,  I tried to quickly get some of my own designs down in the limited space available.   I will say the obvious first:  Bricks do not make for a good chalking area.  It didn't seem to stop the kids though.  In fact,  so of them seemed to have fun just coloring the bricks with bright colors.  

If my drawings look a little more polished, it is simply because the kids did not have access to charcoal.   The black outline and shading really helps make things pop.  When we go again, next week,  I will add some more if I have time before the set up. 

Today,  we ran in Iowa City and saved Monarch Butterfly larvae from being squashed on the sidewalk.   I had a pet one long ago when I was in Grade school.   A friend and I had two of them and would get them out and feed them as much milkweed as they could eat. However,   My Mom did not want "BUGS" in the house.  ( could have fooled me!  We had ants, moths, and flies buzzing around all the time..)  So she forced me to keep it outside.  My caterpillar had already formed a chrysalis and was preparing to become the butterfly we knew it would be.  But... it rained.  And the jar I kept it in filled with water, despite being under the eaves of the roof.  My butterfly drowned in a half inch of water.  I was crushed! (Especially since Scott Hulst managed to hatch his butterfly out a few days later.  His parents took pictures and cataloged the event for everyone to see.)   I still remember that "excellent parenting" from my Mom. She was willing to destroy the heart and soul of her son, rather than having a harmless caterpillar in the house.   It's the little things like this that  remind me why I say the things I do when I talk about her. 

While running in the heat,  the lake was like glass on another windless day.   ( A rare thing in Iowa) The Swallows were very friendly and I think the young ones are hatching out.   There certainly seems to be more of them flying around now. 

And that brings me up to title.  Strawberries!   The "You Pick" place is open for business and we could hardly wait to get our 7 lbs worth.   I asked about the heat, and the guy says the strawberries will "shut down production" if the heat gets too bad.   But there were plenty of ripe strawberries on the vines today.   I'm happy we managed to get in on the first pick.  Last year we had to go for the second brood, meaning we had to work harder.   Kids seem to only pick the big ones and leave many still on the vine.   So it is a little more effort to get a bucket full.  But not today!   I can hardly wait for Shortcake!

We also picked Some June Berries while running in Coralville the other day. ( Never had them before!)  They have a very mild flavor... similar to blueberries.  They also have a similar texture.   Usually, the trees near the parking area are picked clean by other people or Cedar waxwings, but this year we got a chance to sample a few before they were gone.  Mulberries are right around the corner as well!

Unfinished!  Due to Rain! Kind of....

I did a little chalking in the park today, but a thunderstorm rolled in and chased me away.   Just enough rain for me to chicken out.   But after a few minutes,  the skies cleared up and the heat returned.   By that time, I was home and loading the car for the show tomorrow.   Looks like I will have to finish the mural tomorrow.  

Hope everyone is having a fine Friday today.   The Weekend is upon us!  And if you have a job,  this is your time to relax.  If you don't have a job...like us.... This is your time to get out to the Farmer's market and make a little money.   Hopefully.....  Unless the heat keeps people away again.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Battling the Sun with Chalk!

The last couple of days have been a scorcher!  It certainly felt like it hit the 90's, and I was out there in it... Getting crispy. Well, not completely.  I did armor up with SPF 100!  Did  it work?  Maybe,  At least I'm not a red Lobster tonight. 

So what brings me to endure such torture?   Art in the park, I guess.   This is why I highly recommend people NOT become artists.   I don't even know why I do it.  But I knew this was a possibility last year when I got started.  Iowa Death sun is always present in the Summer.  Temps over 100 will be common in July and possibly several times in June.   The Emerald Ash Borer has killed ALL of the Ash trees  in the park and they have all been cut down... Leaving very few spots with trees for shade.   So... Looks like I will be working on my tan this year. 

I could just quit, I guess.  But where is the Humor in that?  Not to mention I have a giant IKEA bag filled with chalk, a desk filled with chalk, and a 40 lbs kitty litter bucket filled with Plaster of Paris... For making even MORE chalk.   I have to move this stuff out somehow....

Yesterday's Mission was a Sailing vessel/ clipper ship in somewhat stormy seas.  At least that was the plan. Several times kids came up to me and asked what it was.  It was not in the beginning either.   It was near the end.  I had worked 5 hours on it and the kids could not figure out what it was.  The nice/bad thing about kids is that they are Brutally Honest...So you can believe everything they tell you. And they will tell you everything on their mind.  5 hours + Hot sun + kids honesty = irritability, dirty, scare face, and five shades of darker brown skin.   Thankfully,  they Eventually figured it out and told me it looked like a "Pirate Ship,"   which is good enough for me.   Thank you Disney!

Today I made a Giraffe.   Slightly easier, and thankfully, I had some shade  in the later parts of the day.  It only took three hours this time.  Good thing I did not tackle the legs or body!

IN the mean time,   Cheryl has been baking stuff.  She feels slightly freed up now that Soap will be taking the stage for Saturday's show.   She is planning on making soap on Friday.. with Me!   I love being included sometimes.    She says we shall set the entire day aside for me to learn the ropes of Soaps.  Hey!  That Rhymes!    I'm not sure if it will last all day, but we are talking about me here.  

That is about it.   A Normal day for Cheryl and Ethan.   I will have to fill in the blanks some day with the Oddball people of Wellman.  If you have ever watched the movie "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase,  Or "Napoleon Dynamite," you will understand ahead of time what I would have to say.  Cheryl says we are in the Book called "Wellman, Iowa!"  And she is getting used to it now.   That probably means we have been "Institutionalized" here in Iowa.  Meaning: the strange and odd are seeming more and more normal to us now.   It was bound to happen.   We have been here over 10 years now.  

Thanks for stopping in!  And avoid Prolonged exposure to the Sun, Unless you have SPF 100 OR live anywhere other than Iowa in the Summer.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Cheryl's Birthday. D Day, Two of My Favorite Events in History.

Today, June 6th... A Day which shall live in Infamy! Opps!  Wrong speech.   

Today is Cheryl's Birthday.  She is still young-ish....  and will have to wait three more years until she is officially "old."   And then she can start winning her age group awards in her races again.   She is really looking forward to it, because competing with women who are 7 years younger than you has been a challenge.  She went from consistently getting 1st place in her age group... to consistently 2nd.    And then 3rd... ( if third was even offered)  and So far  this year...  4th!  Meaning:  She has been knocked out of the leader board by younger, faster, and less attractive women.  

For the festivities we went to Muscatine to run along the Big Muddy.  The fountain has finally been turned back on and we enjoyed the cool water for the first time in over a year.    Good thing too!  Because the heat was beginning to climb up there.   Running in the heat is much more bearable if you can splash off in the fountain afterwards.  

While on the run,  Cheryl outran a usual train.  It might have been a little more even if the train had been going the other direction.   But a win is a Win!

Currently, we are eating her "Birthday Pie"  A Strawberry pie she has been working on for a week now.   It is good!  And I will be needing another piece very soon.  She was also working on some fudgey thing that ended up being a boiled over DISASTER!  ( No pictures, but it was a MESS! Similar to this one off the internet.)

She also got her Birthday Present from Amazon:  A Hello Kitty Strawberry Shirt!  Hey! I never said she was mature or grown up...  And since when does age have anything to do with your life philosophy?

Time for that second piece!   I'll sign off with  rain is predicted for tomorrow.  And the cooler temps blowing in are a welcome, if not ominous sign.   For that reason, I did not do any outside chalking today. A little rain might not even wash last weeks murals away.  But the rain will be a welcome sight for the farmers... and the Mushrooms.   Hope everyone is having a fine day today.   Mine will be made just a little bit better after another slice of this.... 

 Thanks for stopping in.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Wild Ride At The "Wild Card."

We just got back from the Kalona Farmer's market.  And things went fairly well!  We sold 35 bars of soap and the action was pretty steady.  Cheryl went into this event grumpy, as all of the baked goods flopped and she was never very "passionate" about the soap.  ( Even  though it is possibly the best soap I have ever used.) I have been looking for a reason to rekindle the soap store, since baking seems to have taken over things now.   So today was an opportunity!

And Kalona delivered!  We basically sold almost double what we sold at Muscatine.  Kalona is only 7 miles away instead of 40 to Muscaine ( think rising Gas Prices!) And the action seemed a little more festive.  ( Live Music, various crafters and carvers.  Even a Forger/blacksmith with  hand-made knives and axes!) In all,  I'm happy we moved out some of the closet soap stash.   Cheryl is as well.  In fact, I think that is the whole reason she  went... Wanting to "unload" the soap we have  been storing all this time. 

My favorite "Flavor":   The Old Style Barbershop Soap, is now down to one bar.   Cheryl says we may have to make more this week.  That might mean that I get to play with dangerous and harmful chemicals for real this time!   I can hardly wait!

As for the baking,  Cheryl says she has a theory on what went wrong after taking some time to contemplate things.   IT might all come down to the flour.  She was using Bread flour...  but then discovered she "should" have been using the Pastry flour.   The difference, from what I have gathered, is the water absorption rate.  She switched recipe books and they neglected to make the distinction ( possibly assuming "all purpose flour" was being used) so by using pastry flour, the water was not absorbed enough and a "swamp" was formed in the middle of each cake.   

"Mistakes were made... Usually in the past.   And upon various comets and asteroids... Let's review the Tapes!" Tamama.  Sgt Frog.

The car is unloaded and the Temps are in the 90's again.  Time to "chill" out in the Air-conditioning.  We are now formulating our next phase of the plan,  trying to figure out if we should keep baked goods on Thursday and Soap on Saturday.   Seems like a decent plan to me, but we may need more data to learn more...  To make sure Kalona's First Farmer's market was not a fluke.   I can hardly wait to play with Real Lye!

That last part is a joke.   Lye is very dangerous and should only be used in the presence of small Children.

That last part is also a joke....  Lye should not be used in the presence of  small children  OR large children... like me!.. without adult supervision. ( And a LOT of safety gear.)    Good thing Cheryl will be there to Boss me around.

(Assuming she lets me "help" in any way at all.....)

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